The International Association of Conference Centers reached out to its 355 members to see what they’re seeing as top influencers when it comes to technology used by meeting planners and venue operators. Here are their top 10 trends. Some are pretty much to be expected, others not so much. What are you seeing?
1. Coming soon, if not now, to a meeting near you: High tech expectations
Cue up the free Wi-Fi—the Millennials who are your current and future attendees are “addicted to social media…[and have] high expectations of connectivity, interactivity, and the ability to influence and engage in dialogue,” according to IACC. And they're not the only ones, harumphs this baby boomer. This moved from a nice-to-have to an essential a few years ago.
2. More relaxed networking
Oh please, let this be the beginning of the end of "networking" receptions that are so loud no one can hear what is being screamed at them! IACC doesn't come right out and say so, but it does say that providing "welcoming" environments in multi-use spaces people can use to socialize at their discretion is a coming trend.
3. The mood squad
Have you noticed this as an actual trend? I'm still not seeing "radical makeovers in terms of design, color, and creative seating options" in meeting rooms, outside of the odd session at a meeting industry conference on room formats, most likely led by Jeff Hurt. Though I did just recently hear about the California Water Environment Association's work to completely redesign its conference—formatting and all! If a 90-year-old organization can do such a radical changeup, there's not much of an excuse not to use some of the tools IACC identified, such as user-controllable LED mood lighting and high-tech furniture groupings.
4. Map the meeting
A new word to add to your meetings-related vocabulary: Geofencing, or placing a virtual perimeter around a real-world geographic area like, say, your meeting venue. Your GPS-enabled app can now coordinate with an attendee's badge to let them know where they are in the venue, and how to get where they want to go. I haven't really seen this in action yet, but the possibilities are pretty enticing.
Drones, Smart Phones, and Virtual Reality
5. Smart use for smart phones
If attendees agree to let your app drive their phone, that little piece of hand-held technology becomes a powerful communications device for transmitting contact information, social media profiles, specific meeting room access information, meal tracking, and food preferences, and enable attendees to send and receive info about program updates, photos, pop-up events—you name it. As the press release says, "Instant and targeted contact is king today." Why not use the tech we all carry around to make meetings more engaging and interactive?
6. Not all drones are bad
Just as the human droners who solemnly read their PowerPoint presentations are becoming rarer (at least, that's the rumor), the high-tech overhead buzzers are starting to make their way into more conference space, zipping around overhead while shooting videos and aerial photos, and mapping out venues for GPS-integrated conferences. I know some people think they're dangerous, but they do add some serious sizzle to an event, like they did at the Cvent Summit last summer.
7. Cables be gone
Another trending tech, according to IACC, is wireless charging. According to IACC, QI Consortium, which is currently pushing for a single standard,has wireless charging points in 3,000 hotels, and large-scale furniture makers such as IKEA are selling tables and desks that come with pre-installed standardized wireless charging. So it's not too much of a stretch to expect meeting venues to incorporate wireless charging points into bar tops, meeting room tables, and guestrooms.
8. Beam me in, Scotty
While Star Trek-style transporters are still science fiction, conference venues are doing their best to make virtual attendees and speakers feel like they're experiencing the meeting face to face by developing meeting rooms with multiple ceiling-mounted microphones, high-bandwidth connectivity, and advanced software solutions. Venues also are seeing more clients asking to capture video to send to another group at a separate location.
9. More part-time planners means more virtual site inspections
IACC members also are reporting an increase in the number of part-time meeting planners whose actual title may be more along the lines of executive assistant, marketing coordinator, human resource professional, or department head. Since part-time planners likely aren't able to conduct an in-person site inspection, they are turning to Google Street Views to check out venues long-distance, including meeting room layouts and video footage of a property.
10. The online buy
People are not just looking at properties more online, they're buying their meeting space online, too—"one IACC venue recently reported 70 percent of all new business comes via online search activities, and they expect that number to grow." For this to happen, venue Web sites have to be fully powered planning, booking, and buying tools, not just online versions of marketing brochures.
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